B2B buyers are now expecting B2C-like customer experiences online, and B2B suppliers are ramping up their digitalization efforts to address it. But they focus primarily on technological disruption, strategy, culture, organization, business models, go-to-market approaches, etc., rather than a compelling narrative. A compelling narrative is critical to every business because it helps win people’s minds and hearts. It’s the magic B2B suppliers need to thrive in today’s highly competitive digital landscape.
B2B Companies generate enormous volumes of content, most of which fail to drive engagement and motivate action. The reasons are i) a lack of analytical horsepower and precision to identify customers’ intentions, interests, unmet needs, and fears, ii) a lack of a solid content strategy and the reluctance to change, and iii) the absence of a content team with the capabilities to implement the change effectively.
B2B content has reached a dead end. The ocean of redundant marketing messages is widening without purpose. Buyers are overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated by the formless content, lulling them into inaction. When buyers don’t decide, there is no sale; when there is no sale, there is no business.
A lot is at stake for B2B suppliers, so at Content Charisma, we have designed a content model to help B2B suppliers increase their sales while decreasing the sales cycle by months and helping B2B buyers make informed decisions.
The ‘five-tiered B2B content model’ is a proprietary product of Content Charisma. It is designed to open people’s minds and hearts and get them on board to make a meaningful and measurable difference to the company’s bottom line.
This article will discuss the following:
- What is at stake for B2B companies?
- What is a five-tiered B2B content model?
- How does a five-tiered B2B content model enable buyers to complete their buying jobs?
- How can a five-tiered B2B content model address FOMO (fear of missing out) and FOMU (fear of messing up)?
- Why must B2B companies urgently adopt a five-tiered B2B content model?
- What is needed to build a five-tiered B2B content model?
What is at stake for B2B companies?
According to Forrester, B2B sales in the US, this year will account for $10.58 trillion, 17 percent of which is $1.8 trillion, will be on e-commerce platforms. B2B digital transformation, like previous industrial revolutions and significant economic and industrial disruptions, will put many established companies out of business and will see the rise of many new innovative companies.
Understanding technology and embracing it, devising a strategy, having an agile organizational culture, a well-structured business model, and failure-proof go-to-market approaches are the table stakes. What will make the difference is winning the minds and hearts of buyers and customers, and failing at this game-changer will lead to losing control over survival.
What is a five-tiered B2B content model?
To understand the five-tiered B2B content model, let’s start with the backdrop that necessitated its development.
As B2B offerings become increasingly commoditized, buyers’ subjective or personal considerations are becoming more crucial in purchases. The elements range from the strictly objective — for example, price and specifications — to the emotional, such as alleviating buyers’ anxiety and enhancing their reputation. Two additional factors matter in a B2B transaction: a) the costs and consequences of not making a particular purchase and b) the risks associated with the decision to act and make the purchase.
B2B companies must first address buyers’ range of rational and emotional considerations in their value proposition. Then they must build a narrative that thoughtfully addresses their concerns, amplifies the costs and consequences of buyer inaction, and mitigates or eliminates the risks associated with purchase decisions.
This narrative must flow in every content on their website, blogs, emails, case studies, newsletter, and ad copy. When companies understand buyers and customers and communicate with them to align with their ‘sense of value’, they become the vendor of choice. People’s ‘sense of value’ derives from a combination of elements. Through surveys and customer studies, we have identified 40 fundamental ‘elements of value’ in the B2B space, which fall into five distinct categories as follows:
- Table stakes.
- Ease of doing business.
Please refer to the article How to avoid the commodity trap in B2B Marketing content? to learn more about the 40 fundamental ‘elements of value’ in the B2B space and how they help you stand out from competitors.
The five-tiered B2B content model addresses the five categories of values buyers and customers seek. It amplifies the costs and consequences of their inaction and mitigates or eliminates the risks associated with the decision to act, making the supplier’s story relevant and compelling.
Tier 1 content addresses the table stakes elements of values such as meeting specifications, acceptable pricing, regulatory compliance, and ethical standards.
Tier 2 content address the functional elements of value. It includes improved top line, cost reduction, product quality, scalability, and innovation.
Tier 3 content addresses the productivity and relationship elements of value. It includes time savings, reduced effort, decreased hassles, information, transparency, organization, simplification, connection, integration, availability, variety, configurability, responsiveness, expertise, commitment, stability, cultural fit, risk reduction, reach, flexibility, component quality.
Tier 4 content addresses buyers’ career and personal elements of value. It includes network expansion, marketability, reputational assurance, design and aesthetics, growth and development, reduced anxiety, fun and perks.
Tier 5 content addresses inspirational elements of value. It includes vision, hope, and social responsibility.
Companies do not integrate all elements from all levels in their value proposition, but most include features from each tier.
The work of a content strategist is to build a roadmap of intent and map content (from the five tiers) to a story for a buyer persona or a group of personas.
How does a five-tiered B2B content model enable buyers to complete their buying jobs?
There is no denying it’s the decision-maker who signs on the dotted line. In organizations with 100-500 employees, a decision-maker’s sphere of influence consists of at least seven to 10 different persons on average. This team is the buying committee that undertakes research and evaluation before recommending a brand or a solution to the decision-maker, who is, in most cases, a C-Suite executive.
The buying committee does not have the authority to make the final decision; however, it can reject possibilities based on its understanding of a company or a solution.
To make a purchase, the committee members (the buyers) must complete a set of tasks termed ‘buying jobs’. Every buyer undertakes six buying jobs to decide on an investment, and they approach these jobs simultaneously, revisiting each buying job at least once.
The buying jobs are:
- Identifying a problem: This is the initial stage when they identify a problem and feel that they need to do something about it.
- Exploring solutions: After buyers identify a problem, they look for the possibilities that solve the problem. Their research begins here.
- Requirements Building: This is a stage where they try to figure out what exactly they need the purchase to do. When they develop a comprehensive list of their requirements, they shortlist suppliers.
- Supplier selection: After researching solutions and collecting information from various suppliers’ websites, forums, reviews, and other sources and try to figure out whether a solution does what they want it to do. At this stage, they revisit the previous buying jobs.
- Validation: After the second round of review of the previous buying jobs, they make a final evaluation. Have they picked the right supplier who will provide a satisfactory answer to their problem? It is the stage of being doubly sure. Finally, after ticking all the boxes, the buyer is happy about their decision.
- Consensus: Finally this is the stage where they need to get everyone in the buying committee on board.
Suppliers must help buyers complete their buying jobs. The five-tiered B2B content model helps buyers with exceptional results in the Exploring Solutions, Requirements Building, Supplier Selection, Validation, and Consensus stages, helping suppliers win the competition and become the vendor of choice.
Seventy percent of the buyer’s journey is now digital; their research and evaluations are based on online content, significantly impacting their purchasing decisions. Therefore, it is critical to understand their mindset and pitch content that satisfies buyers’ enquiring approach. It is not advisable to subject buyers to guesswork because they will choose the seller who can help them reach a consensus and poses the least risk to their organizations and careers.
This messaging or content building by the seller or company must begin as an organic part of brand-building from day one. Companies should not wait for buyers to take an interest in them and play catch-up. A clear communication and content strategy – the core of our five-tiered B2B content model – is the brick-and-mortar of image-building; it cannot be like a last-minute paint job.
Unbridled enthusiasm and passion for brand storytelling is a magnet to attract buyers because it points out your strengths, passion points, mission, and vision. It is a seamless strategy to help steer their decisions in your favor. When a supplier tells a story full of transparency, integrity, and commitment, buyers need no more convincing.
The five tiers of content touch all the value proposition elements for a product or service, creating relevancy for buying committee members, who may have different values. The five-tiered B2B content model helps buying committee members reach a consensus.
The five-tiered B2B content model helps B2B suppliers deploy buyer enablement strategies effectively. To know why you need buyer enablement strategies, please read my article, Buyer Enablement is the only way to own a B2B scenario.
To know, what happens behind the scenes of a B2B purchase, please read my article, The perils of decision-makers dominating the content ecosystem of B2B enterprises.
How a five-tiered B2B content model can address FOMO (fear of missing out) and FOMU (fear of messing up)
FOMO: In discretionary purchases, the fear of missing out is significant because customers are not compelled to buy; they can get along fine without making purchases.
In discretionary purchases, salespeople must manage two simultaneous sales: the first ‘sell’ convinces the customer they should change instead of continuing on their current path, and the second ‘sell’ convinces the customer the vendor’s approach is the best option.
FOMO plays a vital role in both ‘sells’. Buyers and customers must be convinced they will lose out if they perpetuate the status quo – organizationally and personally.
Risk aversion plays a more decisive role in B2B buying decisions than we imagine. A seller’s failure to explain the costs and consequences of buyer inaction will likely make them continue down the same path. If a seller cannot answer their question, ‘Why should we change?’, they will be relegated to the basement.
The five-tiered B2B content model helps both ‘sells’. It addresses all the touch points and reveals the dangers of buyer inaction – loss of an excellent opportunity for organizational growth and receiving help as stakeholders.
FOMU: There is a clear desire for personal and organizational success among buyers. Their lack of buying confidence often results from fear of failure or making a wrong decision, frequently resulting in the status quo as the safest option.
There are two categories of decision-making errors: a) omission errors of not taking decisions that should have been taken (deciding to do nothing falls in this category) and b) commission errors, which are the consequences of making and implementing a bad decision.
It is rare for errors of omission to be attributed to individuals. Keeping the status quo might seem the least risky option from the standpoint of personal reputation since failure to decide is often seen as a collective failure rather than an individual one. What’s the point of sticking their neck out if their decision could backfire?
However, errors of commission are attributable to individuals or groups who acted on a decision. They can damage their reputation and lose opportunities if the decision fails outright or partially. In the absence of absolute certainty of success, decision-makers may defer their commitment to change.
The decision-makers swing vote is primarily influenced by company culture. Several organizations claim to promote an environment of well-informed and well-intentioned decision-making, as well as intelligent risk-taking. However, this must be reinforced by the way risk-takers are treated. In practice, are they rewarded for their efforts, or is it possible for well-intentioned failures to impede their careers? However, this is a separate discussion and can be discussed in another article.
In B2B purchasing decision journeys, risk aversion is a more powerful factor than we are typically aware of. To sell change, we must ensure our prospective customers understand the costs and consequences of befriending the status quo. In the process, we should be careful not to make our prospective customers feel browbeaten by our approach.
Buyers’ fears are double-edged. On the one hand, we need to heighten their fear of missing out on our brand; on the other, we need to reduce or eliminate their fear of messing up if they implement our change proposal.
How can you strike a balance between FOMO and FOMU?
A five-tiered B2B content model helps you do it in the following ways:
- It makes sure your content addresses prospective customers’ desired outcomes- and aims to shape those outcomes in a way that contrasts their current situation with their desired future state.
- It uncovers, understands, and addresses your prospect’s hopes and fears.
- It helps you avoid offering artificial short-term financial incentives or discounts that your buyers are unlikely to be receptive to or are unable to take advantage of. It saves you from being perceived as a desperate supplier thereby increasing your brand’s credibility.
- It identifies and addresses all risk factors the decision makers are considering – even those they may not have acknowledged to you. It encourages you to discuss risks you have been afraid to address head-on.
- It establishes a clear connection between the product or service (and your brand’s approach to delivering it) and the buying company’s priorities and initiatives since products or services aligned with an organization’s goals are likely to receive approval.
- It examines and addresses the primary sponsor’s and all other stakeholders’ motivations that must align with the proposed solution. It ensures they all believe that the path your company is proposing is the one that best addresses both their personal and organizational priorities.
- It amplifies the costs and consequences of buyer inaction whilst mitigating or eliminating the risks associated with acting on a decision.
Why must B2B companies urgently adopt a five-tiered B2B content model?
The days of cold calling, offline and traditional online marketing activities, and paper-based, manual transactions are fading. Just as the B2C world is innovating and digitizing, customers expect the same from B2B sellers and grow impatient with companies who don’t step up.
Technological research and consulting firm Gartner predicted that 80 percent of the B2B sales interactions between buyers and suppliers have started taking place in digital channels. Unlike the B2C customer journey, the B2B buying process is complex, extensive, and information-heavy, with numerous stakeholders involved in purchasing decisions.
80 percent of B2B buying decisions depend on a buyer’s direct or indirect customer experience, and 87 percent of B2B buyers would pay more for a supplier with a better e-commerce portal and experience, an increase from 81% in 2020 and 74% in 2019.
Failing to provide the correct information and resources buyers seek or giving information that confuses, overwhelms, or frustrates them kills business communication.
B2B companies invest in content to drive business. But creating digital experiences that satisfy self-reliant buyers and customers is challenging. A five-tiered B2B content model will help them ramp up sales, decrease sales cycles, and bring unprecedented returns on Investment (ROI). But, if companies continue to follow the complacent culture, their survival chances are like a drop of water on a hot pan.
The five-tiered B2B content model is a shiny, smart weapon in the B2B marketing arsenal. It is a full-proof multitalented content model: it mobilizes product or service potential, speeds up an organization’s growth, and increases profit.
Ignore it at your peril.
What is needed to build a five-tiered B2B content model?
You need a strategic content team. It must include experienced marketing strategists, buyer-persona experts, data analysts, researchers, compelling storytellers, editors, and search engine optimization experts who work together to create magic.
Here is how you can build and prosper:
Step 1. Reaffirm your value proposition. Companies are usually unaware of all product or service ‘elements of value’. Make it a point to conduct surveys and interviews with existing customers to analyze their responses to understand what they value most. Use the laddering technique when asking questions. Use the answers to strengthen your value proposition.
Do not accept customers’ statements on products or services at face value. Get to the core of what they are saying. For instance, when a procurement manager from a hospital states your medical equipment is ‘affordable and convenient’, its value derives from a combination of inherent functional elements in her response. She is implying the product saves time, reduces cost, avoids hassles, and simplifies.
Step 2: Build a five-tiered B2B content strategy: Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Which questions go with which buyer persona and at which stage?
- How do they connect? In other words, which questions connect to building momentum with a story for a persona/segment?
- How should you prioritize content for your editorial calendar?
- What do you want as the buyer’s takeaway from your content and how it will answer them?
- What is your content’s linking strategy? Will it have a “what’s next” piece of content to link to? In other words, does it make the buyers/readers look forward to your subsequent communication? Is your content creating a legacy?
- How should you roadmap topics in your content editorial calendar?
Step 3: Craft content that addresses the five tiers and maps them to a story for the buyer persona or group of personas. It is a lot of work, and human intelligence is critical. You need a team that understands the five-tiered B2B content model. A team comprising experienced marketing strategists, buyer-persona experts, data analysts, researchers, storytellers, editors, and search engine optimization experts. Their collective effort will create a compelling story for your buyers and customers, a story that will sin their minds and hearts, and onboard them driving a meaningful difference to your company’s revenues and profits.
Suppose you want to adopt a five-tier B2B content model for your business; partner with OUR TEAM that developed and successfully implemented it in various industries. Contact us.